Continuing on with #sexUUality today (you can read my first post under this tag here), I want to write about the 1st UU principle- "We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: The inherent worth and dignity of every person." You can go to the UUA's website to read more about the Principles and our Sources here.
From my perspective outside of so many sexual norms, much of what is considered the sexual/relational norm isn't respectful of people's inherent worth and dignity and that's part of why the #seUUality tag is so important, why it's so important that UU clergy are also blogging under the tag. As I've considered this post, my intention and focus keep shifting. I know that part of this is my triune sexual/relational identity- bisexual, polyamorous, BDSM-identified (or kinky, as I most often say). I'm going to start with polyamory.
In a conversation with a friend, I wrote this:
because to me, it isn't respectful of people's inherent worth and dignity when we force people to be monogamous, when we engage in serial monogamy, when we don't allow space for a mature and honest polyamory and I always hold that no matter how difficult, there has to be space for other sexuality, however that is seen.
This is the heart of one issue for me- compulsory monogamy, often paired with compulsory heterosexuality. I would like to ask my readers to ruminate on "how do you can you say you respect someone's inherent worth and dignity if you want to force them to live their sexuality differently than what feels natural and right to them?" Too many people react to a person stating "I am polyamorous." as if it is a statement against their relational identity/style. I am polyamorous- I'm not asking *you* to be other than you are. I'm not telling you how or with whom I engage with sexuality- just that I prefer to engage in romantic relationships with more than one persona at a time AND with everyone's knowledge and consent.
Is my inherent worth and dignity dependent on *your* worth and dignity? *Your* understanding and/or approval of how I live my life? If I'm asking you only to accept the reality of my life, not asking you to change yours, why do people feel the need to dismiss polyamory?
It seems that many people use some sort of feminist logic to jump from polyamorous people to polygamy to the repressive patriarchal sort of polygamy practiced by some fundamentalist Mormons. Yes, too many women in that final sort of polygamy are there against their wills and don't really know there's another choice. Is it respectful of a polyamorous person's worth and dignity to assume their reality is the same as those women you saw on late night news?
By that same measure, we struggle with stereotypes of BDSM. Even before "Fifty Shades of Grey" (which by the way, if it was really a consensual BDSM relationship, it would be considered a total power exchange, which is a less common form of BDSM), too many people not into BDSM assumed it's all about pain and torture. I love what an BDSM erotic romance author of friend of mine once said- "BDSM is like a huge tent where all sorts of fetishes are welcome."
Let me start by explaining some of my BDSM dynamic with my dominant. In BDSM terminology, I identify as a lifestyle submissive. BDSM isn't something I just do in the bedroom. That isn't to say that I have a total power exchange; I make plenty of my own decisions that my Master doesn't necessarily like- among them is to continue engaging in UU spirituality and spaces no matter how many times I've been hurt in them, how many times my trust, my inherent worth and dignity has been violated in them. Much of my BDSM lifestyle is about service to my Master; to a "vanilla" or non-kinky person, my life can look much like an average 1950's housewife. I cook. I clean. I satisfy Him sexually. Sometimes I struggle with feelings of monotony, of "Why clean it up when the house will only be dirty again later?" like some woman talked about in Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique." More often however, I enjoy the service, I enjoy pleasing my dominant by making His life easier and more enjoyable than it might be without me in His life.
Yes, I do enjoy many of the stimulation activities that could be considered painful. We have a small bag with various whips, paddles, and other toys in it. But that's not every day, all the time. That's not "Master is home for work so it's time to take the dirty things out of His work bag and then rub His sore legs and feet before He puts on lounge pants and slippers to relax before going to bed." The thing is, even if the stereotypes of BDSM were more part of our relationship- whips and bondage, pain and torture- that would be fine as long as both my dominant and I wanted it, as long as we both consented to it. Because unlike all too many non-BDSM relationships, my Master and I regularly talk about what we both enjoy sexually. Open, honest, direct communication between two adults.
So I've spent most of this post on polyamory and BDSM- now I'm going to mention bisexuality. That piece of my sexual/relational orientation has been harder. I came out as bisexual when I was 15, but through different religious stops before I made it to UU, I wandered in sexual identity as well. I'd come to embrace queer as a label, much in the way that many millennials and younger do now, in the way that it's talked about on the UUA queer identity page. I was glad to find the Welcoming Congregation program when I stumbled into UU as an adult; I was even happier to find Interweave Continental's bisexuality curriculum- although I feel more UUs need to complete it. In my experience, too many people (including UUs who attend congregations that have completed the Welcoming Congregation curriculum and have been given that designation) fail to use language more inclusive of bisexual people, the variety of relationships they may be in (polyamorous or promiscuous, but stereotypes would have all of us being the latter), and that fights against the very real problems of bi-invisibility and -erasure. This is one place for the suggestion (from polyamorous people) of saying partner or partners comes to play.
Further reading from UUs from Polyamory Awareness on how polyamory and the UU Principles and Purposes. http://uupa.org/Literature/polyprinciples.html